On Thursday, Pawar was clear what his first act would be. “My top priority is to visit Satara tomorrow. I wish to extend my special thanks to the voters there,” he said.
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Interestingly, it was in Satara last week that the NCP boss had addressed a rally in the pouring rain.
Pawar’s war cry struck a chord with Marathas
The dominant Maratha community in western Maharashtra found greater appeal in the ageing Sharad Pawar’s energetic rallies than in BJP’s reservation pie. The ruling party also seems to have paid dearly for delaying reservations for Dhangar community.
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Results in the region indicate that NCP has bounced back by
retaining its traditional Maratha votebank
. The community rallied behind Pawar to give NCP gains in Pune, Ahmednagar, Solapur, Satara and Kolhapur districts of western Maharashtra.
BJP was banking on the reservations fetching them Maratha votes, though the quota was not discussed during campaigning. Sources in the party now admit that the Marathas voted chiefly for NCP with Congress, and not BJP, as second choice.
Sources in NCP said Pawar touched a chord with Marathas when he raised issues of agricultural distress, unemployment and the government’s apathy for the rural sector. He criticised the government for its policy on sugarcane, considered the lifeline of western Maharashtra. “All issues are directly or indirectly related to Maratha community. Pawar spoke about them while others were silent,” said Rajendra Patil, a Congress worker in Kolhapur.
BJP leaders said the Maratha community has a natural affection for Pawar and events like the proposed ED inquiry against him, the Satara rally where he addressed the crowds in pouring rain and the large-scale exodus from the NCP to the BJP generated sympathy for him, putting the reservation issue on the back burner. “People do not like Pawar to be troubled at this age,” they admitted.